Sandstorm Sweeps Through Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
Yidden struggling against the fierce, winter wind during a visit to Har Hazeisim on Wednesday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yidden struggling against the fierce, winter wind during a visit to Har Hazeisim on Wednesday. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Window-rattling, gale force winds carried a gray sky full of sand and dust into Israel on Wednesday, ahead of forecasted rain and thunder.

Winds clocked at up to 60 miles per hour howled all night Tuesday and through the day on Wednesday.

Small airborne particles emanating from the Sahara Desert in North Africa raised air pollution levels to the highest in five years, prompting a health advisory from the Environmental Protection Ministry. The elderly, children and those with heart or lung problems were advised to refrain from strenuous physical activity. Approximately 260 people were treated for breathing problems throughout the day.

Rain beginning late Wednesday was expected to gradually clear the air, the ministry said. Meanwhile, snow fell in the north, in Meron, the Golan and elsewhere, and road closing were reported as driving became treacherous.

A seven-year-old girl was lightly injured by a tree that fell in Bnei Brak, and other incidents  involving fallen trees and light posts were reported in Ramat Gan, Afula, and Teveria. In Ramat Gan, a tree fell on a car that was being driven by a driving teacher and his 17-year-old student. B’chasdei Shamayim, the two were unharmed, and fire fighters arrived at the scene to help clear away the tree.

Two large ficus trees collapsed Wednesday evening on a power line on Ahad Ha’am Street in Petah Tikva, resulting in a widespread power shutdown, Arutz Sheva reported. Electric Company crews were sent out to cut branches and remove trees before beginning repair of the power line.

Several areas of Tel Aviv, Holon, Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak also experience power outages.

Two high-school students who went missing during a class trip to the Little Crater on Tuesday after getting separated from their group in the hazy weather were found hours later by rescue workers.

Flights to and from Eilat were temporarily grounded due to the weather, though air traffic at  Ben Gurion Airport was not affected, according to airport spokeswoman Liza Dvir.

The storm front stretched from Cairo where the Suez Canal and two airports were closed, to Beirut where strong waves broke fences, tiles and tore away part of a corniche overlooking the Mediterranean. The storm also brought heavy winds, rain and snow to the mountains.

The storm is the result of a deep depression coming in from the Mediterranean. It is now located between Crete and Cyprus and gradually moving east, according to IMS climate department head Dr. Amos Porat.

The weather change was particularly jarring, coming as it did after several days of rather mild weather.

“We have been in the warmer section of the depression, so it felt warm, but we will soon be in its colder part and it will feel much colder,” Porat told The Jerusalem Post. “It is a wintry cold front and it doesn’t seem like a rare event, but we shall have to wait and see the outcome.”